|Danica Patrick vs Richard Petty spices things up for 2014|
Action on the race is starting to pick up at the books. Most of the Daytona 500 numbers have been up since December, and money has been trickljng in throughout that duration. But with less than two weeks until the green flag drops -- and with some help from the Sprint Unlimited racing this weekend, the dash to the books will come fast from fans everywhere. The Daytona 500 is the second-most bet race of the season behind the Las Vegas Cup race.
There are three things that should really boost the handle in Las Vegas the next few days as we get our first taste of practice and racing at Daytona this weekend. First, the rule changes to the Chase are creating a buzz because if a driver wins, they are virtually guaranteed a spot in the 16-driver Chase during the final 10 races. This is going to be awesome, and it’s great NASCAR has the ability to move swiftly for the betterment of the sport.
The next thing is that the famed No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevy takes the track for the first time in a Cup race since 2001, and rookie Austin Dillon -- the grandson of Childress -- is the driver. Based on the Jan. 10 Daytona testing, and word from several inside the garages at the testing, Dillon should be on the Daytona 500 pole. We’ll see more of the No. 3 in the crowd than we have in a decade because fans have been waiting for its return. And it can be counted on that Childress will honor the car number well with reverence and horsepower.
The other factor is kind of a sideshow of words as Richard Petty, owner of 200 NASCAR Cup wins, doesn’t think Danica Patrick will win a race anytime soon, allegedly saying the only way it will happen is“if everyone else stayed home.”
The King can say no wrong -- he's earned it -- but his own racing program should be thankful it has the best road course racer on the planet or else he might have little chance of having either of his cars perform better than Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 team this season. Mark it down: Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola will be battling Patrick for position all season. That's an insinuation that they are close to being equal, competing with each other to be among the top 20 drivers.
For the Daytona 500, Patrick, who finished in eighth place last season, is set at 40-to-1 odds at the LVH SuperBook, while Ambrose is at 60-to-1. Almirola isn‘t even listed and is part of the ‘Field’ bet. Sure, it’s supply and demand, and no bettors are beating the door down for Ambrose bets, but Patrick is very well respected by all the sports books in plate races because she has proven herself to be very adept in the draft, even in the lesser series.
Because of the Petty comments, we are sure to have some kind of Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs hoopla in the "battle of the sexes." Bad publicity is sometimes good publicity, right? Yet, there really wasn't any need for Petty to discuss another driver’s situation in that manner, especially since his son, Kyle, already stepped in it last year. What is the agenda? To play mind games with one of the 41 other drivers? But why pick on Patrick, who was a rookie last year? Because she’s popular and hasn’t done much? Because she's a woman? Even Dale Earnhardt wasn’t that tough on a young Jeff Gordon.
People are finicky and if all the fringe fans return to the track or television for the Daytona 500, they’re going to get the insight on the Petty-Patrick story, and Petty is going to be perceived as the one being petty and diving below his status. It’s a bad deal and is the type of commentary that could affect future sponsorship deals. Women are the driving force behind buying their men their favorite NASCAR sponsored stuff. However, there are plenty who agree with Petty and the build-up for both sides should help create a nice buzz, which will translate to more viewers, tickets sales and, of course, wagers here in Las Vegas.
Unlimited is Limited
The Las Vegas sports books wish NASCAR would have added another attachment to differentiate the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship from Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Unlimited non-points race. Believe it or not, some people who don’t wager much grab one sheet and make wagers thinking it’s the other event. Why not add "Shootout" to the end of "Sprint Unlimited?" A portion of the fans probably have no idea that this is the "Shootout" like everyone remembers growing up. Sprint Unlimited sounds more like a phone service infomercial.
Betting aside, the brand of Sprint Unlimited seems like NASCAR would get more bang for the buck if it had "Shootout" attached. If certain casual fans can’t understand the most consistent of exhibition races, then how does NASCAR plan on bringing more bodies back to the race track? There are still thousands of seats left for NASCAR’s Super Bowl, while the NFL just showed that plenty of corporate-types were willing to sit out in 40-degree temperatures for the Super Bowl.
It’s apparent that NASCAR is attempting to restore its rightful place in the sports market. It was on the fast track with a continuous upward trend in popularity through the 2000s, but now it searches for answers why Bristol is no longer the hottest ticket in sports. However, the Chase changes are a great step in the right direction.
Shuffling Daytona 500 odds
The biggest mover of all has been Dillon, who opened 45-to-1 at MGM’s books and has been bet all the way down to 13-to-1. The book says it has taken a ton of action on the rookie, most of which came immediately after the test session. And, of course, the No. 3 car is in demand. If he doesn’t win, the ticket is a souvenir as the first race back for the No. 3.
Another popular wager has been Dale Earnhardt Jr. He's looking for his first plate race win since 2004, but has averaged a series-best 12.9 finish position in his past 20 Daytona points races. The highest number offered on Junior is 10-to-1 at several books such as William Hill and the Golden Nugget.
A surprising bunch of odds offered was by Harrah’s/Caesars chain of books that initially offered the same rotation and opening odds as the LVH SuperBook. The LVH usually has the most bettor-friendly theoretic hold of all the books on 30-option indexes at about 28 percent. Harrah’s did chop off a lot of those numbers without raising much, but it still offers better overall numbers on attractive drivers than quite a few books.